Thursday, August 22, 2013

Reflections on Tucson's Neighborhood Summer Sessions

Reflections the Neighborhood Infill Coalition (NIC) Hosted Neighborhood Sessions, a.fonte, 8.22.13

Earlier in the week, I thought I would be writing a detailed summary of the last of three NIC hosted Neighborhood Sessions held at Ward II this summer and posting it via my AnitaWrites blog.  But, as the days have passed, and I have had time to consider what role, as a neighborhood resident and as a professional in community development, I would be willing to take on as a result of these sessions, much of the “wind has gone out of my sail.”   

Maybe it’s the announcement this week of the “strategic pause” of Imagine Greater Tucson (IGT), yet another planning organization that did not meet community expectations for positive change.  I had devoted many hours as a volunteer and later as a consultant to IGT.  I co-facilitated the 2010-2011 Community Conversations and the subsequent policy analysis process that generated the IGT list of community values.  But, two years before IGT put itself on “pause”, I left the organization due to what I viewed as a significant (and non-community-based) decision to focus on transportation planning.  And I have experienced other efforts in the past years that, although begun with the intent to be inclusive and community-based, turned out to be top-down driven and, because of that, produced community plans with no community supported actions. 

The intentions and commitment of NIC and the other twenty-five neighborhoods who participated in this summer’s sessions are, I believe, positive and consistent with determined efforts they have demonstrated over the years.  Tucson is, for better or worse, a city-town of neighborhoods and small businesses.  We are not a corporate city, we are not a destination city for new businesses, in spite of economic development incentives and recruitment attempts to make us one.  Neighborhoods and small businesses are pillars of our region’s progress or stagnation.  These summer sessions were framed by NIC neighborhood leadership to be positive and proactive.  For the most part, they have been.  They have also been productive.  Here are several outcomes of this all-volunteer summer effort: 

  • A statement of neighborhood and community principles and goals, entitled “This We Believe”;
  • A quantitative summary of “desired organizational outcomes” for one or more neighborhood city-wide organizational structures;
  • Identification of (three potential and one current) organizational structures to implement the desired outcomes;
  • NIC’s invitation for another follow-up session in six months to access continued actions.
Within my neighborhood, I live in an HOA community.  Within that community, I am active in establishing a little free library to promote community building through reading.  These are focused steps I can do.  I have professional skills that I can and do contribute to the broader community through my business, Community Renaissance .  However, I won’t be taking on any new roles or responsibilities as I might have done a few years ago.  Instead, I deeply value the efforts of others I enjoyed working with this summer at these sessions and I will continue to share the word of their progress and successes.

If you want more specifics on this summer’s sessions, outcomes and next steps, send an email to Collette at .



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